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The Sweet Side of a Family Business

brown butter 3-shot

Marika Esteves-Smith and Ashli Esteves-Nelson grew up in a family with a major sweet tooth, which meant every holiday season, Marika baked desserts.

When Ashli met her husband, Reggie Nelson, they knew they would run a food business together, so it was destiny that their dream bakery would become a reality.

Before opening Brown Butter Creations in Glastonbury, CT, Ashli Esteves-Nelson worked in supply chain management and operations at Pratt & Whitney. Her husband Reggie had a career in IT and consulting, and Marika was steadily working her way up in the culinary world, with her niche being baking.

“Marika’s first culinary job was working in the kitchen at our godmother’s catering business, which is where her love for food began and she started to learn to bake,” said Ashli. “Before opening the bakery, Marika was the pastry chef at Loomis Chaffee.”

Marika’s baked goods were so creative and delicious that one day Ashli and Reggie approached Marika about opening a bakery.

“She said she would, however, she didn’t know where to begin,” said Ashli. “It was at that moment that the seed for Brown Butter Creations was planted. We agreed to help figure out what it takes to start a business.”

When Brown Butter Creations launched in 2018 – the name is an homage to the brown butter that creates the elevated flavor in their desserts –  the trio started as an online operation only because they wanted to keep their start-up costs low. In the beginning, they worked out of a commercial kitchen operated by Hands on Hartford, a non-profit organization.

Marika focused on baking and product development; Reggie took care of accounting, finance, and legal, while Ashli handled website creation, marketing, social media and customer billing.

During the height of the pandemic, their community in Glastonbury rallied around them and they saw their business thrive. Customers stated that their town needed a dessert bakery, so although they were concerned about the risk of opening a brick-and-mortar, they were ready to take Brown Butter Creations to the next level.

“When we opened the physical bakery [in December 2021], we knew we wanted to create an atmosphere where people felt at home,” said Ashli. “Between the amazing aroma that hits you when you walk in, and the warm friendly greeting, our goal is to create a sense of home before you’ve even taken your first bite.”

Their most popular items are lemon bars, pecan bars and fruit crumb bars. They also sell chocolate, vanilla and confetti cupcakes and have a rotation of various dessert pastries and specialty cupcakes.

Currently, Marika and Ashli see to all the baking needs. They have a cake decorator, a dishwasher and someone who runs the front end. Sometimes their parents even help out front.

“When we bake our recipes, our goal is to have you say to yourself, ‘Mmm, that tastes like more,'” said Ashli. “Tastes like more is our motto. It’s a phrase my father always says when he really enjoys something and would like to go back for seconds. And that phrase is what you see in bright pink lights right when you come in.”


Allanah Dykes

Allanah Dykes is a freelance writer whose niche is home decor and food, but she has written in almost every field from mental health to political op-eds. Her favorite pastimes are listening to Biggie and Bach and enjoying New York Italian ices and slices


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